On September 30th 2018, I ran the Nottingham Robin Hood Half Marathon, where I got a time of 2:42:53. I then ran the Great Birmingham Run 2 weeks later in a time of 2:33:29. This got me thinking about sub-2:30. As such, I looked for some local half marathons for the end of December or January. Here I came across the Gloucester Half Marathon and the Leicestershire Half marathon. The Gloucester Half Marathon was on the 20th January, with the Leicestershire Half following on the 17th February. I opted for the Gloucester Half Marathon as it was sooner.
As well as the half marathon, there was also a full marathon and 50k event taking place at the same time.
Including the booking fees, it cost me £34.38 to enter the half.
There had been a bit of confusion at the start for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they were using multiple car parks, and each entrant was allocated a car park beforehand. This seemed like a well thought out idea, however the postcode that they provided us for the car park was incorrect. Luckily we noticed this the night before and were able to correct it, however it caused slight disruption for others who hadn’t noticed the mistake.
Secondly, the original email instructions stated that you had to collect armbands from the sports hall; 2 for the half marathon, 4 for the full marathon and 5 for the 50k. The idea being that after each lap you would remove an armband until you have none left and then can head to the finish line. This was then contradicted by another instruction letter which stated that at the end of each lap you would be given an armband and then when you have the required amount you can head to the finish line.
In the end, it turned out that the original email had been correct! Armbands were to be collected from the sports hall and then removed at the end of each lap.
After collecting my armbands I joined a rather large queue for the toilet. There were around 8 portaloos near the starting area. Luckily the queue went down quite quickly so I was able to get to the starting area with a few minutes to spare (10:07am)!
There was also some confusion over the starting areas. The half marathon runners were to start on the left with the full and 50k runners starting from another point. Marshals were doing their best to get people to the correct locations, however it wasn’t well signposted.
The Gloucester Half Marathon was due to start at 10:10am, however it started just over 6 minutes late. The marathon and 50k started shortly after the half.
The Gloucester Half Marathon course started with a stretch of just over a mile, before then turning into a looped route of just under 5 miles, before returning back to near the starting area. For the half marathon, the looped section was to be ran twice.
I had opted to wear my Nike Odyssey Reacts for only the second time, so was glad to find out that all of the course was on concrete paths. There were no muddy trail paths to contend with.
The course was actually quite scenic in places, and it was nice to run along some less busy country roads. All of the roads were closed for the event, however some parts only had one side of the road closed. There were cones out to give runners more space from the traffic travelling in the opposite direction. All of the roundabouts were marshalled by traffic controllers who directed the traffic well. As such, runners were able to cross freely and at no point did I feel in danger or have to slow down for traffic.
There were a few inclines, however they weren’t anything too threatening! I managed to run the entire course with no walk breaks, and I used to really struggle on even the smallest of hill climbs.
With it being a looped course, I saw the race photographer twice on the way around and then another one on the final 0.1 of a mile to the finish.
Marshals were split around the course and there were also a number of timing and support vehicles along the way. After the initial concern over the organization of the event due to the armband instruction mix-up and starting a little late, the event itself was actually well organized.
There were no pacers for the Gloucester Half Marathon, Full Marathon or 50k.
All of the aid stations on the course utilized plastic cups.
The first water station was actually less than half a mile into the event. High5 was provided in at around the 3.5 mile mark (just before 9 miles on the second lap). Water was also supplied just past the 6 mile mark (11.5 mark on the second lap).
Bottled water was provided at the finish line.
The entertainment was lacking, however that is never a big issue for me personally. There was no music or anything like that at the race headquarters or on the course itself.
Despite the cold weather and a few issues before the start, the atmosphere was good. There were more spectators along the course than I had expected, which is always nice. Although the course utilized a lot of quieter country roads it still felt like an event as there were plenty of runners around me. This was probably also aided by the fact that there were only around 1,000 runners across all three disciplines.
Cyclists, walkers and runners who weren’t part of the event also wished people well as they travelled in the opposite direction.
It was obviously never going to have the atmosphere of an event like the Great Birmingham Run, but it still encompassed a friendly atmosphere. Marshals were checking on runners as they passed aid stations or intersections to make sure people were OK to continue.
This was a bit of a disappointment for me as there was no goodie bag provided at the event. OK, I can live without a goodie bag, but a snack would have been nice (I really wanted a banana)!
Post-run snacks instead had to be purchased from Up & Running in the sports hall or the burger van outside.
The burger van prices weren’t too bad, especially as it was for an event. Chris got me a hot chocolate for £1.20, however it was severely lacking in chocolate and just tasted like strange hot water! Still, I added an extra sugar drank most of it out of desperation.
T-shirt and Medal:
The Gloucester Half Marathon t-shirt design was OK and it felt like a good quality technical t-shirt. I do dislike when there is one medal and t-shirt design for all event distances though! The medal design leaves a lot to be desired and looks a bit cheap. On the medal itself, it says “Gloucester Marathon Half Marathon 50k”, and I would have preferred a different design for each of the events to differentiate them.
Race photos were available on Tuesday evening. They were priced at £4.99 for a 1200×800 resolution download and £8.99 for a high resolution download. Prints were available from £4.99 with a £0.45 postage charge.
All in all, despite the confusion at the start, I enjoyed my time at the Gloucester Half Marathon. It was well marshalled and there were more spectators than I expected. The part looped course also meant that there were numerous aid stations as you passed each one multiple times. I’m not sure that I would have the mental strength to complete the full marathon or 50k variant though! 2 laps felt OK and not repetitive as they were almost 5 miles per loop. 4-5 laps may have been a bit more of a challenge for me to stay motivated.
The road closures were handled well and the traffic management company did a great job of directing traffic so that runners were able to compete with ease. Despite running against traffic in some parts of the course I never felt endangered thanks to the cones and signs that had been put out. There were also plenty of marshals and first response vehicles along the course.
I obliterated my personal best of 2:33:29 as my official time was 2:11:02. For this reason I will remember the race fondly, however the medal design was a let-down. It looks rather cheap and not as impressive as the Robin Hood half or the Great Birmingham Run. The lack of a goodie bag and post-run snack also disappointed me. Luckily I had bought a protein bar with me so I tucked into that as soon as I got back to the car.
As a whole, I enjoyed the event. The course was nice, it was easy to overtake people, and I got a personal best. Would I enter it again? Quite possibly. It’s the furthest that I have travelled for a half marathon (slightly further than Nottingham), however that detract from the day.
If the quality of the medal was improved and a goodie bag provided, then I would 100% run this event again. When I reviewed the Robin Hood Half I noted that the goodie bag had been disappointing, however it was much better than having no goodies at all! Even just a Yorkie biscuit bar would have sufficed!